The First Political Prisoner Released by Mikhail Gorbachev Reflects on His Legacy

On Tuesday, the former Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev died at the age of ninety-one. His death has been followed by many accolades for having “ended”—that is to say, recognized defeat in—the cold war. Natan Sharansky agrees that Gorbachev deserves credit for having “perceived the direction of history and responded accordingly,” but presents a more “complicated” view of his career:

It was only after 250,000 demonstrators convened in Washington in 1987 to support Soviet Jews, greeting Gorbachev during his first visit as Russia’s leader with chants of “Let Our People Go!,” that the Iron Curtain began to come down.

Freer emigration from the USSR quickly led to demands by religious and national groups for self-determination. This, too, Gorbachev resisted, sending troops to Georgia, Lithuania and elsewhere, killing dozens of demonstrators in the process. The dissident Andrei Sakharov, whom Gorbachev released in late 1986 and who initially appeared to be the leader’s natural ally, spent the last years of his life actively fighting against Gorbachev’s attempts to save the single-party system and to avoid competition in Soviet elections.

I was the first political prisoner to be released by Gorbachev, in early 1986, and upon liberation, I was immediately asked whether I wanted to thank him for my freedom. I replied that I was grateful to all those who fought for my release, including fellow Jews and foreign leaders, because I understood that without their fight, it would not have happened. At that time, I deliberately avoided thanking Gorbachev because, with so many of my fellow dissidents still in prison and emigration still not permitted, I felt it would be irresponsible and even disloyal to give him credit.

But Gorbachev was a product of the Soviet regime, a member of its ruling elite who believed its ideology and enjoyed its privileges—yet decided to destroy it nevertheless. For that, the world can be grateful. Thank you, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Cold War, Mikhail Gorbachev, Natan Sharansky, Refuseniks, Soviet Union

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy